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What You Should Know About Mobile Identity Theft

Jackie here. Scams involving mobile devices are becoming more common, according to the FTC. Last year more than 6% of all identity theft reported to the FTC involved mobile device fraud. As mobile devices continue to grow in popularity, this phenomenon will likely continue.

What Is Mobile Device Fraud?

Mobile device fraud has many faces. Thieves may impersonate you and use your mobile account to purchase brand new phones (which are long gone by the time you find out). In other cases, service is transferred from your phone to a different line without your consent, leaving you without your phone service until the problem is resolved. Thieves can use your account to make expensive international calls, to order replacement devices, and to send money via text.

How can you protect yourself from this growing problem? Here are a few ideas.

  • Protect Your Account– Most mobile phone carriers allow consumers to lock their accounts with a password or PIN. Without this password, no one can access the account. Call your phone company and ask about protecting your account with a password or PIN. This article from the FTC explains the options that each phone carrier offers.
  • Watch for Phishing– Thieves may contact you via your mobile device, pretending to be from your phone provider. They may request immediate payment to keep your service on, or attempt to gather information about your identity. Don’t ever give financial or other information to unexpected callers. If you’re worried about an account problem, call the company back yourself. Make sure you use a known phone number from their website or an official document, not one provided by the mystery caller.
  • Watch Your Bill– Watch your phone bill, just like you monitor your bank and credit card statements. If you notice anything strange, contact your phone company immediately.
  • Dispose of Old Phones Safely– Before getting rid of an old phone, delete all personal information. Many devices have a simple option for restoring your device to its factory settings. This ensures that your personal information (including stored passwords, photos, contact information, etc.) doesn’t get into the hands of thieves.

If you do have a problem with mobile ID theft, contact your phone company. They should be able to help you resolve the problem.

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